Helping a child who has experienced a loss can feel a bit overwhelming. Reading age appropriate books about death, dying, and grief can help children feel understood, and offer a structured way to begin helping them process their emotions. Because the grieving process can manifest uniquely in each child, offering a way for them to externalize their emotions can be a healthy way for them to begin to understand this difficult process.
Books About General Death and Grieving
General books about passing away and grief can help children and their caregivers begin to understand what the grieving process can look like for a child. Because some caregivers may feel a bit uncomfortable, or have a difficult time discussing death with a child, books can offer a great place to begin.
- Sad Isn't Bad: A Good-Grief Guidebook for Kids Dealing With Loss by Michaelene Mundy is for children ages nine through 12. The book offers a realistic look at death and is filled with positive, life-affirming ways for promoting healthy grieving.
- Help Me Say Goodbye: Activities for Helping Kids Cope When a Special Person Dies by Janis Silverman is for children of all ages. This activity book helps children work through grief through art therapy.
- Water Bugs & Dragonflies: Explaining Death to Young Children by Doris Stickney for children ages nine through 12. This book talks about what happens after someone dies using the analogy of a dragonfly leaving its "nest."
- I Miss You: A First Look at Death by Pat Thomas is for children ages four and up. This story helps children understand that grief is a normal process and that it is OK to be sad.
- What is Heaven Like? by Beverly Lewis is for children ages four through eight. After losing his grandfather, a little boy questions everyone about Heaven and finds that the answer lies with his grandmother, who is also missing her husband who died.
- Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss by Pat Schweibert, Chuck DeKlyen and Taylor Bills is for children ages four through eight. It is a storybook that centers around a woman who recently lost someone she loved very much. The book recognizes that each person of a family grieves in his or her own way and reaffirms that this is okay to do so.
Books About the Death of a Parent
The loss of a parent may be one of the most excruciating experiences a child may go through. Helping a child process this loss in a healthy way is a critical piece of their healing process.
- Daddy, Up and Down: Sisters Grieve the Loss of Their Daddy by Lila and Anna Stenson looks at three young sisters who are grieving their father's death.
- The Hero in My Pocket by Marlene Lee helps children ages six through 12 cope with the death of a military service member. It also has pages for the child to write stories or draw pictures.
- The Invisible String by Patrice Karst is a sweet story about the invisible connection between a parent and child's hearts. The story is best for kids who are six and up, as the concept may be challenging for younger children to understand.
Books About the Death of a Grandparent
The loss of a grandparent can be incredibly difficult for a child to go through. They may feel a myriad of emotions including confusion, sadness, anger, and numbness. Helping them understand death, loss, and grief can help them move through this moment in a healthy way.
- Farewell, Grandpa Elephant: What Happens When a Loved One Dies? by Isabel Abedi looks at helping children deal with the death of a grandparent. Grandpa Elephant is about to go to the elephant graveyard, but he wants his grandchildren to understand that there is sadness and good memories when someone passes away.
- Where Is Grandpa? by T. A. Barron is a book written for children four and up. This book helps children understand that a dead loved one is still around in his/her personal memories.
- One More Wednesday by Malika Doray is a story about a small bunny understanding what the death of his beloved grandmother means. The book is suitable for children ages four and up.
- Grandma is a Star by Ligia Carvalho is written for little ones who are in the grieving process after the loss of their grandmother. This book highlights remembering the love they had with their grandma.
Books About the Death of a Sibling
The loss of a sibling can be extremely challenging for a child to go through. Using age appropriate literature to help them understand the grieving process can allow them to work through their emotions at their own pace and opens up a safe space for them to experience this process.
- The Empty Place: A Child's Guide Through Grief (Let's Talk) by Roberta Temes, PhD is for children four and up. In this story, a nine year old and his family must deal with the death of his big sister.
- Why Did She Have to Die? by Lurlene McDaniel is written for children ages 11 and up. This is the story of a girl named Elly who is mourning the death of her older sister Kathy and managing her conflicting feelings.
- Always My Brother by Jean Reagan is a book written for children ages six and up. The story illustrates the loss of a brother, the experience of grief, ways to remember, and how to process the feelings around loss.
- We Were Gonna Have a Baby But We Had an Angel Instead by Pat Schwiebert was written for surviving siblings who have lost a beloved baby brother or sister. This book works well for kids of all ages and can be used to help normalize the feelings surviving siblings may be experiencing.
Books About the Death of a Friend
When a child loses a friend, it's important to find books that speak specifically to this particular loss. Some helpful options include:
- Angels in Pink: Holly's Story by Lurlene Mcdaniel is best for those older than 12. This novel is about a group of girls (The Pink Angels) who deal with the tragedy of losing someone close to them through a random crime.
- I Had a Friend Named Peter: Talking to Children About the Death of a Friend by Janice Cohn looks at the reactions and feelings of a child after a playmate is hit by a car.
- Josh: Coming to Terms with the Death of a Friend by Stephanie Jeffs explores the sadness and pain that may come after a loss and what happens to the body after death.
- The Memory Tree by Britta Teckentrup is a story about a fox who passes away peacefully. His friends get together to share their special memories with fox and a tree begins to grow and continues to grow the more stories are shared.
Books Dealing with the Loss of a Pet
Losing a pet can be heartbreaking for a child. There are many children's books available that help young ones understand the death of a pet.
- When a Pet Dies by Fred Rogers for children ages four through eight. Through this book, the infamous Mr. Rogers helps children understand the loss of a family pet. It helps them explore their feelings of sadness and loneliness.
- The Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst is written for children ages four and older. In helping to deal with the death of his cat, the boy in this book makes a list of the 10 things he liked about him.
- No Dogs Allowed! by Bill Wallace is written for children ages nine through 12. This book helps a young girl process the death of a pet horse through learning to love a new pet dog.
- Remembering Ruby: For Families Living Beyond the Loss of a Pet by Melisa Wells was written for young teens. This book is about a young boy and his family learning to cope after the illness and death of their pet dog, Ruby.
- Cat Heaven by Cynthia Rylant discusses where cats go after they die and all the fun things that the cat gets to do. This author also wrote a book about the death of a pet dog as well. These stories are appropriate for children four and older.
Books for Very Young Children
Young children may struggle to comprehend the dying process. Selecting books that cater to your child's specific age group can be helpful as they move through this difficult process.
- I Heard Your Daddy Died by Mark Scrivani is aimed for children ages two to six. This book explains that it is OK to be sad; it also has ideas to help the child remember the parent.
- Nana Upstairs, Nana Downstairsby Tomie dePaola is a story about a four-year-old boy's relationship with his grandparents. In this book, a young child discusses feelings about the death of his grandmother, but finds ways to stay connected to her.
- Always and Forever by Alan Durant tells the story of how Mole, Otter, and Hare deal with the death of their friend Fox. This story was written for preschoolers.
- The Empty Place by Roberta Temes is about a boy who loses his sister. This book works well for kids ages three and up and assists with healthy coping and identifying emotions.
- The Goodbye Book by Todd Parr is a story about a fish who loses his friend. This book helps little ones process their feelings and better understand the complex grieving process.
Books As a Gateway to Discussion
Books can be incredible tools for helping children understand and process the death of a loved one or a pet. Every child is unique and will work through the grieving process at their own pace, with their own ups and downs. Grief counseling can also be a helpful option in addition to finding appropriate literature.